“I am the mountain, the forest & the earth. I am Faun”
Pan’s Labyrinth is the film that brought Guillermo del Toro to the attention of the world & as I write this review is still his crowning glory. A truly wonderful movie that has all of del Toro’s hallmarks in abundance. It is visually stunning, wonderfully scripted & brilliantly acted. Pan’s Labyrinth is a film you really have to see at least once.
Pan’s Labyrinth starts with a fairytale introduction. Princess Moanna is the daughter of the King of the Underworld. She becomes curious about the world above & ventures to the surface. The sunlight blinds her & erases her memory, she falls ill & eventually dies. Her father believes her spirit will return to the underworld & him one day. From here the movie moves to 1940s Spain just after the civil war. Ofelia is a young girl who loves fairytales, she is travelling with her pregnant & very ill mother to live with her new stepfather Captain Vidal, a thuggish army general who is engaged in flushing out anti fascist rebels hiding in the nearby woods. Ofelia is befriended by the head servant Mercedes (who is league with the rebels) Ofelia keeps seeing a stick insect & one night in her bedroom it transforms into a fairy, guiding Ofelia to an ancient Labyrinth nearby where she meets Faun. Faun is convinced that Ofelia is Princess Moanna & tells her he will give her three tasks to prove her essence still exists. As Ofelia tries to complete the tasks the horrors of the real world around her are brought ever closer to home & the fairytale world also has it’s own darker side, including the sinister Pale Man.
The preceding plot synopsis really doesn’t do the movie justice. There are so many subplots that intertwine that to go into detail would risk plot spoilers. What del Toro has achieved with Pan’s Labyrinth is to make a movie that works wonderfully on many levels & is open to interpretation. Does the world of Faun & Moanna really exist? Or is it a way for Ofelia’s mind to escape the very real horrors in her own life. The movie can be viewed both ways & it is to del Toro’s credit that either interpretation works perfectly. With Pan’s Labyrinth del Toro has created a wonderfully dark fairytale which is not without it’s scenes of outright horror. From the brutal acts of torture & violence committed by Vidal in the real world to the incredibly creepy Pale Man. A truly sinister creation, the Pale Man is a child killer & one of the most imaginative creatures ever committed to celluloid. While the film hints at imagery & tone associated with Clive Barker & Tim Burton it is del Toro’s vision & in Pan’s Labyrinth he has in most respects eclipsed anything those two directors have produced. It truly is a visual masterpiece & setting the movie in 1940s Spain really grounds the movie in a harsh & dark reality. The special effects & make up are superb throughout. Faun is an amazing creation, as is the aforementioned Pale Man. There is also a shockingly realistically brutal scene where Vidal smashes a man’s face to a pulp with a wine bottle that is very graphic & shocking. The entire cast is wonderful, with special mention going to Sergi Lopez, who really brings Vidal to life as a repulsive & vicious human being. Maribel Verdu as Mercedes the housekeeper & spy for the rebels. It is her character that gives the audience hope & someone to root for. Finally Ivana Baquero as Ofelia puts in a wonderful performance. I really cannot find a single fault with this movie, it is simply wonderful.
If you haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth you really need to. A wonderfully dark fairytale that impresses on every level. Guillermo del Toro is one of the most promising moviemakers around & Pan’s Labyrinth is his crowning glory. A perfect example of just how good movies can be,